Spirituality and Religion (1)

SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION.

It is fundamental to our subject that a distinction be drawn between the two.  Religion is the product, the outcome of spirituality, but it is not spirituality itself.  Nor must spirituality be confused with spiritualism or spiritism, both of which are in the category of religion.

Spirituality transcends religion and is not related to beliefs or rituals, neither does it relate to worship.  These are expressions of the religious instinct in human beings, but they are not spirituality in its essence.  Spirituality is a state of being, it is something which is integral to a person’s make-up and has little to do with religious superficialities.  It is a life force, the inherent life of the Spirit, while belief, ritual and worship pertain to the intellect and express concepts about the things of the Spirit.  Of course, beliefs necessarily have a spiritual foundation and in a certain sense they may even be said to minister to the life of the Spirit, just as clothes may be said to minister to the life of the body.  So beliefs are in fact the clothes in which the intellect dresses up the spiritual instinct in humans.

Theological beliefs, often fossilized into creeds, are many, varied and often in deadly conflict.  Ritual is a form of ceremonial magick.  Worship is generally rooted in superstition and fear, in the idea of a deity who requires the propitiation and praise an earthly ruler might wish for.  In fact most religions bestow upon The Supreme Spirit all the attributes and trappings of kingship. 

Religious thought began at the point where man realised that he is an integral part of something much greater than himself, and religious expression took its first step when he consciously tried to participate in the processes of this greater whole and to influence it.  At first this took the form of rites and activities aimed at either the placation of natural forces or the influencing of external events; in other words, magick was born.  When man became aware of his mortality and the limitations of his physical body, he also became aware of something within him that transcended the physical; thus his latent spirituality and its potential were recognised.

Most religions, the outward expressions of the spiritualising process, contain contaminating elements of magick.  Concepts such as vicarious atonement, primitive sacrificial rites, placation, self-mortification or humiliation and attempts to influence Higher Beings through adorational rituals, are more related to magick and shamanism than to any spiritualising process.  Most forms of human worship are based upon concepts which relate more to kingship and sovereignty, to the vassalage of subject to ruler, than to an elevating relationship between the Creator of all and beings made in His spiritual image.  Human rulers may require their subjects to adopt such attitudes, but surely the God of all should not be a magnified projection of this model.  Nothing man can do can in any way add to what God already has, and the concept we hold should place Him well beyond the vanities of mortal men. 

A study of spirituality shows that the part we have to play on Earth is a positive, constructive one entailing responsibility for ourselves and our ultimate destiny, as well as for the planet of which we are Trustees.  It requires the effort of conscious participation in things relating to the progress and wellbeing of humankind as a whole.  Perhaps this is why so many choose the easier road, repudiating individual responsibility for their spiritual wellbeing and casting the burden of Earth’s destiny on a God conceived in the likeness of an earthly monarch.  To any having such an ingrained concept this handbook will be of little value.

Spirituality expresses itself irrespective of theological thinking.  No single religion can lay claim to being unique, or to be the only guide towards attunement with the Higher Spheres or with any Being or Beings therein.  We know, of course, that the claim to uniqueness is commonly made by the devotees of some religions who adopt an intolerant attitude towards those who do not accept their particular tenets.  This is especially evidenced in the two proselytising religions – Christianity and Islam.  This attitude of exclusiveness, of having access to the only Truth, is at the root of all the religious conflicts which have afflicted the world and which are still very much in evidence.  However, there is today a large body of unbiased people who fortunately refuse to attach themselves to any one sectarian religion.  They are by no means irreligious, and might indeed be more appropriately called ‘Seekers after Truth’.  These are the individuals who will benefit most from this publication and whom the Publishers would like to place on an appropriate path.  Although these people cannot be said to be religious in the generally accepted sense of the term, they can and do study various religions in an objective manner.  Speaking in general it will be found that most of them have rejected Christianity in its creedal or ecclesiastical form, yet are by no means anti-Christian so far as the life and example of the central figure of the New Testament are concerned.  It may be said that they follow the precepts of Christ but reject the traditional dogmas which have arisen around them. 

It is becoming increasingly recognised by impartial students of religion, that what is commonly referred to as religion is more or less what might be called an accident of spirituality in its essential nature.  As we have said, religions are merely the outward expressions of a deep spiritual instinct in human beings.  They are necessarily based on and limited by, the knowledge and experience of the individual or the community in which they arise or persist.  Every religion offers its followers what they need most.  For this reason a particular group of people with similar attitudes and beliefs come together.  This is a way in which the natural law of affinity works. It is a fact that people of different ethnic backgrounds have different needs and different understandings, so their beliefs and attitudes differ.  It is of little consequence that they call their God by various names, as long as His precepts continue to meet their needs.  Each individual is offered a choice of two roads:  one where he may serve himself, and the other where he may serve others (and in so doing he also serves himself).  In this choice the person is given the means to grow. 

Most people are able to see life from only one of many possible viewpoints.  They accept their own isolated perspective because they have been told about its merits since childhood, it is built into their minds; and because their way of thinking provides a kind of satisfaction, an area of stability, they do not look beyond it and fail to realise that through time the same lesson has been taught:  namely that life does not revolve around one individual; each person must take a wider view of life and reach out to others. 

Primitive times and primitive people give rise to primitive conceptions of man’s relationship to the world in which he lives, but more particularly to the unseen world with which he instinctively feels that he has some deep-rooted connection.  We call this ‘affinity’, which is, of course, the germ of spirituality, and spirituality is a quality unique to human individuals, an ever evolving thing.

However, we do have to be wary here.  In the first place these primitive concepts are apt to survive and be carried on beyond their time and into communities which have largely arrived at a wider and deeper knowledge; in which case these earlier concepts come into conflict with the more enlightened ones developing.  In the second place this survival is fostered by a hierarchy of ecclesiastics whose very existence depends upon the continued fostering of the old concepts and who, therefore, discourage enquiry or research.  They even promote ignorance and superstition in order to retain their authority. 

Look around you today; it is plain to see that because of the struggle between outdated Christian theology and what is termed ‘modernism’, many sincere people who have had religion presented to them in a form which is, for them, utterly irrational, are abandoning religion altogether and thus starving the spiritual side of their nature.  Where religion is presented as something which an enlightened intellect must regard as superstition, the result can only be agnosticism or materialism.  The teachings of the orthodox Christian Church have little in common with the teachings of Jesus, yet they survive for the reasons given.

As far as the intellect is concerned, the remedy lies largely in a comparative study of religions and this should lead to a deeper understanding of what spirituality, in its essential nature, is all about.  We say ‘should’ because it does not necessarily do so, for the essence of spirituality belongs to a region transcending intellect; and so a mere intellectual study of religions will never yield that which must be grasped by a faculty higher than intellect, to which we may, for convenience, give the not very satisfactory name of ‘intuition’.

Intellect is more likely to belittle and materialise spirituality than to expound it; as indeed can be seen in those formulated religious systems derived from some of the greatest religious teachings of the world, which, in their creedal form, are so much in question today.  Within its own limitations, intellect can only invent creeds and dogmas, and these eventually become outworn and obsolete, but the trail of bitterness and dissensions to which they give rise remains. 

Dogmas and creeds are not spirituality, they are summaries of the reasons that humans give to explain those facts of life which are spiritual; just as philosophies are the summaries of theories people formulate to explain other facts of life.  Creeds and philosophies are derived from reason; they are speculations and not fact, academic formulations of the brain.  Spirituality is the recognition of one supreme fact:  the inherent spiritual nature of humankind.  In the course of historical civilisations this mysterious power in human life has thrown to the surface thousands of diverse religions.

The mid-endowed human individual is not merely a thinking being, he is essentially a religious being.  The religious instinct lies much deeper in his nature than any mental acquirements.  Therefore we say that because he is a religious being he possesses something called Spirit, using that term for the Ultimate Principle which must, of necessity, be the foundation of all that exists in man and in the Cosmos, whatever name may be given to the Ultimate, or however it may be conceived.

Nothing whatsoever can manifest, be it molecule, man or God, that is not basically cosmic (divine) in nature.  It is this fact of inherent divinity (not to be confused with the religious concept), which lies at the root of human religious instinct expressed in its wide diversity.  Religion can therefore be defined as the instinctive recognition by the human individual that he possesses a spiritual nature, and the effort made to express that nature.

History and religion are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate one from the other.  Civilisation itself cannot be apart from religious expression, and there has never been a great agnostic civilisation.  All history establishes that man is essentially and instinctively a religious creature.  Religion has always been the repository of human ideals, and individuals will do and suffer anything for what they call their religion.  It is not something pertaining to any particular age or to any one form of religion, it is evidenced in all ages and in all religions.  Martyrdom has never been confined to a particular religion and it is worthy of notice that it has never manifested in agnosticism or in atheism. 

The individual does not have to be conscious of his inherent spiritual nature in order for it to influence him.  Spirituality is deep-rooted in the subconscious and its influence enables the individual to formulate his religious beliefs according to his intellectual capacity.  His conscious mind will then produce sound reasons for the formulated beliefs, for that is just what the function of the intellect is to supply such reasons. 

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